A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Book 1, Chapter 1
Brooklyn is serene in 1912. A tree grows in front of the house of Francie Nolan and her little brother, Neeley. This tree attracts her attention and she calls it the Tree of Heaven because it likes poor people. She also talks about the beauty and relaxation of Sunday.
On Saturday afternoons the kids bring all their junk to the junkyard and collect pennies from Cheap Charlie's. Other kids laugh at them, but they continue to bring in their copper and have Carney exchange it for shiny pennies. Cheap Charlie's is the store next to Carney that caters to this junk trade for young children. It is only for boys, so Francie must wait outside. Francie and Neeley go across the street to Gimpy's candy store afterwards. When they get home, Francie speaks with her mom and is shocked to learn that Jesus was a Jew. She learns many small facts about life and religion in this conversation.
Francie's mother, Katie Nolan, is a beautiful 29-year-old woman who works as a janitor to make money to raise her children. Francie's father, Johnny Nolan, is a singing waiter, the most handsome man in town, and a drunk. "Everyone said it was a pity that a slight pretty woman like Katie Nolan had to go out scrubbing floors. But what else could she do considering the husband she had, they said." Chapter 1, pg. 10
Francie gives her money to Katie, who habitually puts it in a tin can. Katie tells Francie to go to the store to get food for lunch. On her way to the store, a small gang of youngsters teases the two Nolan children. They won't let Francie play ball because she is a girl. Francie and Neeley fight with them and then run home with the bread they bought. Johnny does not come home to eat, typically, and Francie is allowed to throw away part of her meal so that she doesn't always feel poor. Katie lets the kids throw away food and coffee on occasion so that they know what it's like to feel rich.